“The Sea of High Adventur” by Nina Clarke, London

Travel July 14, 2011 02:18

The Sea of High Adventure, by Nina Clarke, London

The first thing she felt for when she opened her eyes was Tiger.  Tiger wasn’t there. Her hands scrambled on the ground for him but the ground was hot, hard and now it had given her a splinter in her palm.
She squinted and sat up, realising she was shading her eyes from one single shaft of light, which was piercing its way through what must be the door….
Where on earth was Tiger?  She could deal with being away on an adventure, like they had told her, but she could not do it without Tiger.  She was sure she had been holding his paw when they took her.  She yelled his name again and again and again, until it sounded foreign.
She decided to be sensible.  Mum was always sensible.  Mum would always help her find Tiger.  But Mum wasn’t here. She had only just been with Mum, on the beach, and then Mum had fallen asleep.  She had screamed so hard for Mum to wake up, and she could remember Mum running after the man who had offered ice cream and then carried her away, as another man held Mum back screaming her name.
And now she was here.  No Mum, no Dad, no Tiger.
She could hear a whooshing and then a trickling sound coming from outside, and she concluded she was still near water.   She had spent enough days on beaches with Dad to know she was near water.
She cried Tiger’s name again, and then Mum’s name. The whooshing and trickling sound drowned out her voice, and now she felt scared.  Before it had felt safe, he said it was ok – that small man, with a bit of hair, white clothes and a shiny face the colour of strawberry ice cream.  She really wanted some strawberry ice cream.
She fell to the ground as the thing she was in moved and jolted with the whooshing and trickling and she was shoved to the left wall,  scraping her spine. As she opened her mouth to yell again, the shaft became a pool of light and the small man stood looking down at her, telling her it was alright, he only wanted to keep her cool.
He stood there for what seemed a very long time, and, just as she was about to enquire about Tiger, he held his hand out to her.  She decided that taking it was a better idea than staying down here;  where she could only hear things and not see them. She found herself on the deck of a boat, which didn’t surprise her, but she had never been on one before.  She stood awkwardly on the hot surface and asked for water.  The man shouted to someone who wasn’t there, with a name she had never heard before, in a voice which sounded so different from her dad’s.  It was hoarse, and the type of voice was odd – the style of it was odd.
She asked where Tiger was and he shrugged, which sent a shot of pain to her tummy. Had she dropped him when they had brought her here?  Someone walked towards them, an even smaller person than the strawberry ice cream, a woman, who handed her a warm glass of water.
As she glugged it down, she could feel the heat on her head and the two people watching her.  She felt dizzy and she thought she could smell marzipan, like the marzipan Mum let her spread on the Christmas cake, and as she did so, the man sat down beside her and told her why she was here.  He said sorry for taking her away from her parents, but she needed to understand they weren’t her parents, they were people who had stolen her, just like it seemed he was stealing her now. None of this made sense.  She asked where she was going.  The small woman said she was going home to America, and that it would be explained soon, and did she understand why she was here, did she know what year it was?
She told the small woman it was 1931, and the woman smiled in relief, as a splash of water landed on her forehead and evaporated.
She was not scared, she thought to herself, she just wanted to go home to the beach and Mum, who she had just been told was not her Mum.  She knew she didn’t look much like her Mum, but that had never mattered.  And, just as the man asked if she could recall her first memory, from about three or four years ago perhaps, she saw him.
He was floating on the water in front of her and she did not have to think.  Before she realised it, she was jumping into the endless blue below her, the warm glass still in her hand, and heading for Tiger.
She could feel the cold water soothe her face and sting the part of her spine which had rubbed against that wall, as she used her new breast stroke practice to get to the floating, one-eyed, tattered Tiger, and she realised she would rather be there, with him, in this chilly water, than up there with the strange people who were saying her Mum was not her Mum.  Mum had warned her against people like this.  People in uniforms.
After a couple of gulps of sea water and coughs she found her rhythm.  She reached Tiger’s drenched paw and swam away from the boat, which looked now like a big, white giant, towering above her.  Someone else had dived in behind her, in a tight, black suit, looking like a massive penguin which, she had time to observe, looked very silly.  She swam as fast as Dad had taught her to swim, faster than her six and a half year-old legs could manage, and she did not stop.
She kept on swimming, with Tiger in her hand, over the waves and towards the invisible shore – stroke after stroke after stroke – to the beach where she’d left her Mum.

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